Over the years I’ve heard many people say things like:
- “I can’t ski in April because it gets all slushy”
- “Doesn’t the snow suck when its 60 degrees out?”
- “I hate mashed potatoes so I won’t go snowboarding after March.”
All these statements came from those that are unknowledgeable on where and how spring skiing works. More often than not April and May are the two best months to ski not because they get the most snow, but because its prime “corn” season. Each day during spring can be as good or better than a powder day mid-winter.
Corn snow are frozen round granules that almost look like tiny ball bearings. When hit at the right time of day they are some of the best snow conditions Mother Nature has to offer. So, how do these form? First, you need a deep snowpack that is not affected by the warm ground. Second, warm sunny weather with minimal wind needs to begin hitting the snow surface. The sunshine begins the melting process. Then at night the temperatures need to drop well below freezing. This causes the snow to form a firm icepack. After several days of the same weather something magical begins to happen. Corn snow suddenly begins to form. The final key ingredient to make things perfect, is sun angle. If it’s too low like you find during mid-winter the corn snow won’t form correctly.
It’s all about timing
If you’ve ever over-cooked a meal and it’s too dry, or you take it out too early and it’s mushy it’s the same concept. Corn snow is very similar in that it has to be timed perfectly. Too early, and it will be a sheet of ice. Too late, and you’ll be skiing in what’s known as, “mashed potatoes.” But, if you time it just right it’ll be perfect. If it’s earlier in the spring it’ll take a bit longer for this cycle to occur. This means you may be waiting until noon or later. Later on, like May or June then you might have to show up around 9:30 am. Also, there is a window for these conditions. Once the snow is prime skip lunch or take a late lunch and get it while it’s good! Corn will only last for a few hours. It’s important to watch the weather and see what is happening the night before to get the timing right. Locals knowledge can also be a great help.
Who has the best?
Resorts found near the coast do well since they have a deep maritime snowpack. Sitting above treeline is also important because there will be minimal pine sap or needles in the snow causing your deck to stick. The most critical is that the weather drops below freezing at night.
The following resorts have these characteristics and more!
Mammoth Mountain –
Home to great brews at Mammoth Mountain Brewing and sick terrain this place kills it in the spring. With plenty of sunshine, a deep snowpack and a ton of pro riders calling it home what other proof do you need? They also have the top team of snow sculptors crafting their terrain park! This is the place to be in the spring! This mountain is worth a trip even into June.
Whistler Mountain –
Both Whistler and Blackcomb stay open to the end of April. Home to a ski village that all other mountains try to replicate, it’s definitely a must try. The best part is if you show up in late April you can ski the top ½ of the mountain in the morning and mountain bike the bottom part in the afternoon. Talk about a fun filled, adrenaline rushing day!
Even though it isn’t on the coast Snowbird does receive over 500 inches of snow annually. Being located just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City also makes it easy to hang out in town and check out the awesome culture as well.
No matter where you are located in the country skiing or snowboarding shouldn’t end until at least April or May! If you follow our simple instructions you’ll have a blast!
Stay tuned next week as we talk about getting your gear ready for spring skiing.